What Is Arianism?

What is Arianism? Arianism is another one of those fancy theological terms that can tend to confuse Christians.  It is referring to an ancient heresy that existed in the Church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. While it eventually became the minority view, at one time it actually had the backing of a majority of Christian leaders. 

So what exactly does it mean to believe in Arianism?  The view teaches that Jesus was created at some point in history by God the Father.  In other words, Jesus is not eternal, He is a created being.  And since God created Jesus, He is therefore subservient to God the Father.  As you can see, this differs greatly from the Trinitarian view that God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all equal and eternal. 

Who Was Arius?

Arianism gets its name from the Egyptian Church leader Arius (256-336 A.D).  While he did not originate the idea of Arianism, he was one of the greatest champions of the idea. Arius was greatly influenced by the Church Father Origen.  But while Origen held that Jesus was eternal but subservient to God the Father, Arius believed that Jesus was not eternal. 

Arius has one other interesting distinction in history.  Rumor has it that at the council, Nicholas of Myra became so upset with Arius that he walked over and slapped him.   And if you are wondering, yes, Nicholas of Myra is the inspiration for Santa Claus.  So Arius has been forever known as the man that was beat up by Santa Claus!

The Council Of Nicaea

It is often believed that the Council of Nicaea was called to determine whether or not Jesus was God.  This false idea was exacerbated by Dan Brown’s book “The DaVinci Code”. In the book, Brown claimed that Jesus was only made divine after a “narrow vote” from the assembled bishops. None of this is true, however.

 The real reason the for the meeting was to answer this question: “What is relation of God the Father to Jesus?”.  Everyone at the Council of Nicaea believe Jesus was God. They were just debating which view, Trinitarianism or Arianism, was the correct one. Of the roughly 320 bishops assembled, only 3 wound up voting for the Arian view.  The remaining bishops believed that the Trinitarian view was the correct one.  Not exactly the “narrow vote” described by Dan Brown.    

Modern Arians

While the Arian view eventually fell out of Christianity for the most part, it is still held by a few groups and other religions today.  

Jehovah’s Witnesses hold a somewhat modified Arian view.  They believe that Jesus is a created being and not equal to God the Father.  They also do not recognize The Holy Spirit as being a figure of the Godhead. Rather, they think that The Holy Spirit is a force representing God’s power.  

Mormons also hold that Jesus was created apart from God the Father, and came into existence at some point in history. 

Support for Trinitarianism

So why is it we as Christians believe in the Trinity rather than the Arian view?  There are many scriptural references that point to Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit being one in nature.  Here are some common verses that are used to defend the idea of the Trinity:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,[1] (Mt 28:19).

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.[2] (Jn 1:1–3).

30 The Father and I are one.” [3] (Jn 10:30).

You are my witnesses, says the Lord, 

and my servant whom I have chosen, 

so that you may know and believe me 

and understand that I am he. 

Before me no god was formed, 

nor shall there be any after me. [4] (Is 43:10).

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[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 28:19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 1:1–3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 10:30). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Is 43:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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